Everything they touched had a story.
A necklace from the loves of their lives; a vase that belonged to a mother or aunt; a photo of past generations or families celebrating at long dining tables; dead rose petals from a funeral spray; birthday cards yellowed with age.
Each item evoked a memory, resurrected a loved one, or summoned a tear.
During the past weeks, Richard and I had the arguable privilege of helping our mothers “downsize” to smaller apartments. In their early 90’s, both moms are widowed, are in relatively stable health, active in their living communities, and vital in their faith. They are resilient and determined. They are also engaged in what this stage of life is for: reflection. For our moms, packing and sorting wasn’t about purging as much as it was pondering.
While we “get-er-done” Boomer kids were intent on answering the triumvirate questions: Keep? Throw away? Or Donate? – our moms weren’t quite so anxious to part with their treasures. And that’s because, well – they held personal meaning, significance, and worth. And so, hesitantly and sometimes, impatiently, we tried to slow the process down.
In our Re-Ignite ministry, we consistently ask people to spend time intentionally reviewing their lives. We believe it’s the people, events, difficulties, and accomplishments that form who we are and set the stage for who we will be in this season of life. We provide charts and maps for documenting this life-review—very flat and two-dimensional. Our moms’ reflections were live, 3-D, tangible. Each item they considered manifested fingerprints from the past. Reluctantly, we began to understand the colorful tapestry of our mothers’ lives. We learned things we didn’t know about our ancestry, we heard stories we had already heard countless times, and we experienced being children at our moms’ knees again.
I wish I could say we were successful in the goal of downsizing. We (along with our siblings) did, at least, get them moved into lovely new environs. While a few boxes went to thrift stores, some artifacts to family, and several bags to trash—many treasures found their way back into boxes and confinement in a storage cage.
Someday, we will revisit them and disperse them to new receptacles.
The storytellers will be silent. And, we will have our own narratives to share.
written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite
Images by CanStock